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Photographing Children

The majority of occasions when people take photographs of children and young people are valid and do not provide any cause for concern

Unfortunately, however, there are occasions when this is not the case and these are some of the risks associated with photographing children:

  • The collection and passing on of images which may be misused;
  • The identification of individual children to facilitate abuse;
  • The identification of children in vulnerable circumstances.

Photographs and video images constitute ‘personal data’ and the processing of such data is subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018. Therefore using such images for school or other publicity purposes will require the consent of either the individuals concerned and in the case of children, those with Parental Responsibility.

It is a statutory requirement for childcare settings and childminders delivering EYSF (Early Years Foundation Stage) to cover the use of cameras and mobile phones in their safeguarding policies and procedures.

It is therefore recommended that explicit written consent is always obtained from the parent and child where photographs are to be used, in order to comply with these legal requirements.

Please note that separate consent is required if data is placed on a website.  Particular caution should be exercised in relation to social networking sites – see Use of Social Media Sites by Social Care and Safeguarding Staff Procedure

The consent of parents/carers (and children/young people of appropriate age) should be sought and permission given before any photograph of a child or young person is taken.

An organisation may seek overall consent from its members for photographing children and young people and any such consent should be in writing; however the organisation's guidelines should be clear about the reason and purpose for seeking consent and how the overall consent will be used, i.e. the context in which such photographs will be used.

If photographs of children are taken for a specific event, campaign or project, which is outside the terms of the general consent, or if photographs are going to be published in different ways from those for which consent has been given, then additional consent is required.

The following general principles should be borne in mind when parents and members of the public are attending events such as school and sporting events.

See also: Taking Photos in Schools (Information Commissioner’s Office).

Children and young people should be made aware of the dangers that can arise from people taking photos or filming them. It is key that children and young people feel happy with their achievements and have visual aids to reinforce their special moments.

  1. Reason and purpose;

    Photographs should only be taken by an authorised person who has a suitable reason related to the child or organisation i.e. they are a parent, a relative, a club member, and a member of staff;

    Unless photographs are taken as part of school activities such as sports day, plays, concerts, they should be used for an individual purpose not a public purpose e.g. not posted on the internet and not passed on to others unconnected with the child;

    In relation to schools' photographs at school events, parents/carers should be made aware that photographs are being taken at these events and that they may be displayed on a school's notice board;

    Parents must be aware of these policies and consent to them ideally at the beginning of each academic year or at the point when the child is admitted to the school.

    There should be clear written expectations of professional photographers or the press who are invited to an event, making clear the organisations expectations of them in relation to safeguarding children and the use of any images. Such photographers should not be allowed unsupervised access to any child.

  2. Appropriateness of images;

    No images should be taken of children that capture them in what are commonly understood as non-public activities like toileting or changing clothes, or which show body parts not usually visible in public settings or related to the particular activity e.g. a swimming gala, athletics, gymnastics etc;

    Images involving groups should be about the activity, not the individual child and close-up images should be avoided.

  3. Identification of subjects;

    Any photograph should not allow an unauthorised person to identify a child or their whereabouts. So, if using a full name, have no photograph or, if using a photograph, have no full name. Particular care should be taken when photographing children in vulnerable circumstances, e.g. Looked After children or victims of parental violence. Risk in each individual case should be assessed and managed appropriately, with due regard to the child’s wishes and feelings. Whoever is responsible for taking photos on the day should be made aware of any requirement s or restrictions;

    Personal details such as email addresses or homes addresses and telephone numbers should never be revealed.

  4. Photography for public display;

    You can decide whether you want publicity photographs and if so you should inform the press of your policies before they arrive. It is worth noting that it is not illegal to take photographs at a public event even if asked not to do so, but if your event is private then you can insist that your own policy is followed. Photographs of children in activities should try to include a wide range of types of children, and not show them in breach of rules, or behaving in a reckless or dangerous fashion;

    Images should never be stored in personal computers - they must be stored in a secure location to protect them from damage or being misused. This will ensure that no one can accidentally use them without being clear who they belong to and the context in which they may be used.

  5. Use of Mobile phones;

    Mobile phones are easily used without the subject being aware and their main function is to transmit images to others not to be retained by an authorised person as a keepsake;

    Their use should be discouraged - however the spread of this technology does make this difficult. This is something to be aware of when hosting any event. You may choose to ban the use of photographing on mobile phones at your event but this is difficult to police.

    Where mobile phone use is permitted, users should be strongly encouraged to turn off their location settings.

The photographing, video recording and filming of Looked After Children taking part in family activities, school events and other occasions should be seen as a normal and essential part of their childhood.

Where the intention is that these photographs are to be stored and or published, parental consent is essential for all Looked After Children including those accommodated under Section 20. All requests for images to be taken or recorded of Looked After Children should be referred to the Social Worker responsible for the child in question.

Photographs should only be taken on cameras or mobile devices, and stored on devices, provided for this purpose by the employer, not on staff members’ personal devices such as mobile telephones, tablet or laptop computers, home computers, memory sticks, etc. They should not be uploaded to staff members’ personal social networking accounts.

The General Medical Council website provides links to useful guidance:

Protecting children and young people: The responsibilities of all doctors (General Medical Council) sets out guidance regarding the obtaining of consent for the use of photographs. The doctor undertaking the examination must be satisfied that the person giving consent understands the purpose of the examination and what it will involve. This includes whether photographs or other images will be taken and how the results of the examination might be used – for example, as evidence in court. If the photographs are subsequently intended to be used for a different purpose, then a separate consent must be obtained. For example, if someone has given consent for images to be taken for forensic purposes, the images should not be used for other purposes – such as education or training – without first obtaining a separate consent to do this.

Making and using visual and audio recordings of patients (General Medical Council) provides guidance on ‘recordings’ of patients. Recordings’ in this guidance means originals or copies of audio recordings, photographs, and other visual images of patients that may be made using any recording device, including mobile phones. It does not cover copies of written records.

Practitioners must also ensure that they comply with any local/internal policies and procedures and seek guidance from the organisation’s Caldicott Guardian.

Last Updated: January 8, 2024